What, exactly, is President-elect Donald Trump trying to do by talking about a new nuclear arms race?
And why does Russia, of all countries, seem to be unconcerned with Trump’s desire to expand the country’s nuclear arsenal?
Some clues can be found in an interview with Trump that dates all the way back to 1987 and that shows the purported billionaire real estate tycoon has long wanted to cut a deal with Russia on nuclear weapons — even during a time when the United States and the USSR were still engaged in the Cold War.
The interview, which was conducted by veteran reporter Ron Rosenbaum and reprinted by Slate earlier this year, shows that Trump believes forging an alliance with the Russians to act as global enforcers against further nuclear weapons proliferation would be just the kind of bold strategy that would keep the world safe.
“Most of those [pre-nuclear] countries are in one form or another dominated by the U.S. and the Soviet Union,” Trump said of his plan to make the USA and USSR the world’s top nuclear arms cops. “Between those two nations you have the power to dominate any of those countries. So we should use our power of economic retaliation and they use their powers of retaliation and between the two of us we will prevent the problem from happening.”
As an example of how this would work, Trump said the United States should level brutal economic sanctions against France unless it gives up its nuclear program.
“[France has] got the bomb, but they don’t have it now with the delivery capability they will have in five years,” Trump said. “If they didn’t give it up — and I don’t mean reduce it, and I don’t mean stop, because stopping doesn’t mean anything. I mean get it out. If they didn’t, I would bring sanctions against that country that would be so strong, so unbelievable.”
Trump also floated the idea of using military force to compel countries to disarm their nukes if economic sanctions didn’t work.
“I guess the easy thing would be to say you go in and clean it out,” mused to Rosenbaum.
“Like the Israelis did with the Iraqi plant?” the reporter asked him.
“I don’t necessarily want to advocate that publicly because it comes off radical,” Trump responded. “And you know, without a lot of discussion prior to saying that, it sounds very foolish and this is why I get very concerned about discussing it at all.”